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Too Many Eyes on the Ball

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In the opening games of the World Cup, midfielders have scored what seem to be an inordinate number of goals from beyond the goal box. In the first game, Torsten Frings knuckled a ball in from 35 yards out to seal the win for Germany in what was the highest scoring first game of a World Cup tournament ever. Against the USA, Tomas Rosicky pulled a similar feat for the Czech Republic.

Before the games started, US goalkeeper Kasey Keller predicted the introduction of a new ball, Adidas's Teamgeist model, would cause things like this to happen. It is one of the "little things we have to deal with as goalkeepers and gives that little bit of advantage, because FIFA [soccer's world governing body] wants more goals," he told the Washington Post.

Indeed, Forbes predicts the new ball will lead to more goals as well, mainly from free kicks. "The Teamgeist ball promises to provide more of the spectacular highlights that are the grist of TV's replay mill," according to the article.

Over at Live Science, an article explains that the ball has more movement in the air because it has fewer panels (14 -- in what Fark describes as a maxi-pad decoration) than most hexagonal designs (26-32). Supposedly, the pattern can cause shots with low spin rates to have unpredictable trajectories, thus wreaking havoc for keepers.

If only there were some way to know what influence this new ball will have on the competition. Perhaps if some of the national leagues had used the Teamgeist this year, we could see if the predicted increase in goals occurred. Wait, what's that? That did happen? According to the one article (in USA Today) I could find that mentions it, the ball was used in both the MLS and the Argentine Clausura. "Statistics provide little support for the ball's detractors," according to the article. "MLS scoring through mid-May compared with last season is down (2.96 to 2.80). In Argentina, scoring dropped from 2.7 goals a game in the 2005 Clausura championship to 2.3."

And it's not as though the top goalies aren't familiar with the ball. According to the Sydney Morning Herald, the ball was used by many of the top European teams, appeared in the Champions League final, and has been available for the last six months to all the national teams who qualified for the World Cup.